Where will Gog of Magog Come From?

Category: The End Times 152 0

In another article, I presented the argument that Gog of Magog is the Antichrist.[1] That article laid the groundwork for our current topic: Where will Gog come from? The most common interpretation among prophecy teachers is that Gog will come from Russia.[2] However, another interpretation has risen over the past few years, and that view teaches that Gog will come from the Middle East. This is an important topic to study since its proper interpretation is paramount on how we understand the End Times especially since Gog may be the Antichrist. Here is Ezekiel 38:1-6:

“The word of the Lord came to me: ‘Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal; prophesy against him and say: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against you, Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. I will turn you around, put hooks in your jaws and bring you out with your whole army—your horses, your horsemen fully armed, and a great horde with large and small shields, all of them brandishing their swords. Persia, Cush and Put will be with them, all with shields and helmets, also Gomer with all its troops, and Beth Togarmah from the far north with all its troops—the many nations with you.’”

Who is Gog?

First, let us start with a brief look at the name “Gog.” Most scholars agree that “Gog” is a reference to a king who ruled over the ancient nation of Lydia. During the days of Ezekiel, Lydia made up what is today western Turkey. Gog was called Gugu by the ancient Assyrians (who lived in present-day southeastern Turkey, northern Iraq, and eastern Syria), and Gyges by the ancient Greeks. This king of Lydia ruled around the year 660 BC, and was known to the Greeks as tyrannous, or the “tyrant.” If this is correct, God may have used the name “Gog” to teach about the horrors of a future leader to come, similar to what we may say about a future dictator being “another Hitler.” I want the reader to remember something about Gugu/Gyges: He ruled in Turkey. Remember that; it will be important before the end of the article.[3]

Magog

Gog is said to be “of the land of Magog.” “Magog” means “land of Gog.” When it comes to locating this place on a map, the common identification seems to be somewhere near Russia. Mark Hitchcock presents another possibility by equating Magog to Central Asia and maybe even Afghanistan.[4] The connection to Russia (or any area outside of the Middle East) primarily comes from the equation that Magog is the same as the Scythians, an ancient people known to have been located in the Black Sea/Ukrainian region.[5]

This interpretation stems from the ancient historian Josephus (c. 37-100 AD). He says that the Greeks called the Magogites “Scythians.”[6] The problem is that Josephus didn’t say where the Scythians were located. It is common knowledge that the Greeks viewed the Scythians as a people north of the Black Sea (Ukraine). However, Herodotus (c. 484-425 BC), the first great ancient Greek historian (who lived closer to the time of Ezekiel than Josephus did), placed the origins of the Scythians in present-day Turkey.[7]

Other ancient historians that placed Magog in Turkey include Pliny the Elder and Hippolytus of Rome, an early Christian theologian in the third century.[8] Pliny talks of an ancient city called “Bambyce, otherwise called Hierapolis; but of the Syrians, Magog.”[9] Hierapolis was a city on the border between present-day Turkey and Syria.

Lastly, most modern scholars place Magog in Turkey or the surrounding region.[10] Daniel Block, in his commentary on Ezekiel, believes that Magog is simply referring to Lydia in modern-day Turkey since the name Gog is borrowed from the ancient king Gyges.[11] (I want to remark briefly that just because some modern scholars place Magog in Turkey does not automatically prove that it was located there. I believe that all the evidence taken together strongly points to Turkey.)

Meshech and Tubal

Let us move along now to Meshech and Tubal, whom the Antichrist is said to have been “chief prince of.” Meshech and Tubal have been identified with Moscow, the famous city in Russia, and Tobolsk, a city in central Russia. It is believed that Meshech is preserved in the name Muskovi (an old name for Russia), and Tubal with Tobolsk.[12]

However, evidence suggests that they were located in Turkey. Meshech is located in Turkey by Herodotus, and the Assyrians knew them as Muskaya.[13] Josephus places them in Cappadocia, which is an ancient region of Turkey.[14] Tubal is located in eastern Turkey. The Assyrians knew them as Tabal.

What is very interesting is that the Assyrian records also couple Meshech and Tubal together like Ezekiel does (Tabali and Muski in an inscription of Sargon, a king in ancient Iraq).[15] Even Hitchcock, a major advocate that Gog will come from Russia, says that Meshech and Tubal are to be located in Turkey. To equate them with Moscow and Tobolsk because they have similar sounding names “is not a proper method of identification” and he notes that it doubtful that ancient Tyre (Lebanon) would have traded as far away as Russia (Ezekiel 27:13).[16]

Rosh

Now we come to perhaps one of the most controversial parts of Ezekiel 38 – the Hebrew word Rosh. Many advocates of a Roman Antichrist believe that “Russia” comes from the word Rosh. The Hebrew word means “chief.” However, some scholars want to translate it as a place in Ezekiel 38. The general translations are: “Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief [Rosh] prince of Meshech and Tubal” or “Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal.”

The reasons why some want to translate it as a place include:

1) some Hebrew scholars believe that it is a proper name.

2) the Septuagint (the ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament) translates Rosh as a proper name. Modern translations of Rosh are traced to the Latin Vulgate of Jerome which was put together hundreds of years after the Septuagint.

3) many Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias take it as a proper name.

4) Hitchcock says, “Rosh is mentioned the first time in Ezekiel 38:2 and then repeated in Ezekiel 38:3 and 39:1. If Rosh were simply a title, it would be dropped in these two places, because when titles are repeated in Hebrew, they are generally abbreviated.”

5) a proper name is most natural in this context.[17]

Hitchcock continues, “linguistically and historically, there is substantial evidence that in Ezekiel’s day there was a group of people known variously as Rash, Reshu, or Ros who lived in what is today southern Russia.” He then quotes Clyde Billington who says that the Rosh were the ancestors of the Rus/Ros people that make up Russia today.[18]

These are interesting arguments. But they have some problems. First, although the perspective of the Septuagint is interesting, this does not prove that Rosh was a nation. It simply shows what the translators of the Septuagint thought it was. What matters is the historical/literary context of Ezekiel 38 and 39.

Second, just because some scholars interpret Rosh as a place does not mean that it is so. There are other scholars who disagree. For example, Edwin Yamauchi, a very noteworthy Bible scholar, believes that there is no connection between the word Rosh and the word “Russia.” He notes that it would be anachronistic to equate Rosh and “Russia” since the word “Russia”comes from the word Rus, which was not even brought into the region of Russia until the Middle Ages by the Vikings.[19]

Ralph Alexander, in the Expositors Bible Commentary on Ezekiel, says of Rosh, “The accentual system and syntactical construction of the Hebrew language strongly indicate an appositional relationship between the words ‘prince’ and ‘chief.’ Both terms are related equally, then, to the geographical words Meshech and Tubal. Grammatically, it would seem best to render the phrase, ‘the prince, the chief, of Meshech and Tubal.’”[20] This indicates that Rosh is not a place in this passage.

Block summarizes the debate about Rosh as a place or a common noun:

“Recent attempts to equate Rosh with Râshu/Rêshu/Arashi in neo-Assyrian annals is more credible, except that the place so named was located far to the east on the border between Babylon and Elam, and would have had nothing to do with Meshech and Tubal. This interpretation is also difficult (though not impossible) from a grammatical point of view. If Rosh is to be read as the first in a series of names, the conjunction should precede ‘Meshech.’ rō’š is therefore best understood as a common noun, appositional to and offering a closer definition of nāśî’. Accordingly, the prince, chief of Meshech and Tubal, combines Ezekiel’s preferred title for kings with a hierarchical designation, the addition serving to clarify the preceding archaic term. Ezekiel’s point is that Gog is not just one of many Anatolian princely figures, but the leader among princes and over several tribal/national groups.”[21]

When Block is speaking about Rosh possibly being a nation, he is referring to the work of James Price who argues that Rosh was a nation on the Tigris River on the border of Elam and Ellipi. If Rosh was a nation, and not the word “chief,” this would put Rosh in western Iran. If this is correct, then Rosh was a Middle Eastern nation, and not Russia![22] Quite simply, Meshech and Tubal, and maybe even Rosh, point to the Middle East, most notably Turkey.[23]

This map shows us one of the popular interpretations of the nations in Ezekiel 38-39. However, it is not entirely correct. Rosh may or may not be a nation, but if it is, it should be placed in the western portion of Iran, not in Russia. Magog should be in Turkey. Source for map: http://www.lamblion.us/2010/04/gog-magog-battle-ezekiel-387-17.html
This map shows us one of the popular interpretations of the nations in Ezekiel 38-39. However, it is not entirely correct. Rosh may or may not be a nation, but if it is, it should be placed in the western portion of Iran, not in Russia. Magog should be in Turkey. Source for map: http://www.lamblion.us/2010/04/gog-magog-battle-ezekiel-387-17.html

Persia, Cush, and Put

Two of these nations are easily identifiable. Persia is the modern nation of Iran. Cush is today called Sudan. There are two different possibilities with Put. The most common is Libya. The name Put is very similar to another ancient name: Punt. Punt is identifiable with modern-day Somalia.[24] Put could easily be either of these nations. If Put is Libya, then it is also possible that it could include all the nations of North Africa west of Egypt: Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco.[25]

Gomer and Beth Togarmah

Lastly, we have Gomer and Beth Togarmah. Gomer was located in modern Turkey. During the reign of Sargon the Great (before 2000 BC) they are mentioned as the Gimirrai.[26] Josephus also places them in Turkey.[27] Togarmah is identified with Tilgarimmu in Cappadocia (modern Turkey).[28]

Is there a problem with the Antichrist coming from Turkey?

It seems clear that the nations in Ezekiel 38-39 come from the Middle East. Gog comes from what is today known as Turkey, and the nations that are following him in these two chapters are connected to Turkey, Iran, and North Africa. However, critics of this view will immediately bring up a problem with identifying Gog with Turkey. Ezekiel 38:14-16 and 39:1-3 specifically say that Gog will come from the “uttermost parts of the north.” Hitchcock says, “If you draw a line directly north from Israel, the land that is most remote or distant to the north is Russia.”[29] This criticism is not as strong as it may seem. J. Paul Tanner notes the problem with this:

“Those who often equate the Ezekiel passage with Russia point out that Gog and its allies do not simply come from ‘the north’ but from the ‘remote parts of the north’ (Ezek 38:6, 15; 39:2). In fact, the NASB [translation of the Bible] reads “the remotest part of the north” in Ezek 39:2. In the MT, however, the three phrases are essentially the same: yrkty spwn. Hence there is no reason to translate Ezek 39:2 differently than the previous two references. The noun yrkh has the basic idea of ‘extreme portion,’ ‘extremity.’ But other occurrences of the word when used geographically reveal that the term does not have to mean the farthest point away. The expression myrkty-rs (“from the remote parts of the earth”) occurs four times in Jeremiah. In Jer 6:22 we read:  ‘Behold, a people is coming from the north land, and a great nation will be aroused from the remote parts of the earth.’ There is general agreement that this refers to Babylon in this context. Jeremiah 50:41 reads: ‘Behold a people is coming from the north, and a great nation and many kings will be aroused from the remotest parts of the earth.’ The context is dealing with God’s judgment upon Babylon and the enemies that he will bring upon Babylon. Although the invaders are not clearly specified, there is mention of the ‘kings of the Medes’ [northern Iran] in the general context (51:11; cf. 51:27, 28). In two other verses (25:32; 31:8) God is depicted as stirring up nations from the remote parts of the earth, but the reference is quite vague. Outside of Ezekiel 38-39 yrkh is used in a geographical sense of nations from the Middle East, thereby demonstrating that the expression need not be taken to mean the farthest point possible.”[30]

Similar Names and Migrations

Before I end this article, I want to comment on two methods that some Bible teachers will use to try to equate Gog with Russia: 1) similar sounding names; and 2) migrations. I already noted how similar sounding names have been used to equate Meshech and Tubal with Russia (Moscow and Tobolsk). In the past, some scholars thought Gomer was Germany.

Just as interesting is the use of migrations. Leon Wood notes that Magog, Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal were all originally Middle Eastern peoples, but they eventually migrated into Russia. This means that Russia is the place where Gog will come from.[31] However, there are some serious problems with using similar names and migrations to identify nations in prophecy. Walid Shoebat sums it up very nicely:

“Imagine how foolish the use of this methodology could become: One could even go so far to make Biblical Javan [the Hebrew word for Greece] be referring to Japan or Saksin [a medieval city in Russia] be Anglo-Saxon – after all, they sound similar, do they not? Another could argue that Scythia is in Scotland, which is inhabited by ‘Scots’ since ‘Scyths,’ and ‘Scots’ can be mildly manipulated to sound similar. Yet some serious Bible teachers follow this flawed approach and equate Tubal with ‘Tblisi’ in Georgia. But try to follow the logic: Even if it were true, that some particular modern nation adapted a name that related to its ancient ancestors, it does not override its original location. This would be like saying that because there is a Bethlehem in Pennsylvania, the Messiah must be from Pennsylvania. Scythia is in Eurasia and not in Scotland or Siberia. Even Spain or the Iberians are of Anatolian [called ‘Turkey’ today] origin (Celtiberian) and descend from Gomer. So are the Celtic, the Gaels, the Irish, the Welsh, the Britons and the French who trace themselves to Gomer part of the Gog coalition also? And if not, then why are we including Russia simply because she may have descended from Rosh? There is no difference between the two.”

Shoebat continues:

“If phonetics and migration patterns are the yardstick that God has ordained for us to identify these nations, then we are in serious trouble because we will be forced to ultimately include virtually every nation in Europe. Then by adding Cush and [Put] who are the children of Ham, we can also include all of Africa in Gog’s coalition. We can even theorize that China came from Mongolia who is linked to the ancient Magogite/Scythians as well. In fact, if we continue with the lineage and migratory path then we might as well include the whole globe. The U.S. has peoples from every ancient people imaginable, so is the U.S. also part of the Gog coalition? But if the ancestral, migration method is the method that we need to be using, why then would the Bible go through all of the effort of giving us the names of nations? Why not simply say that Gog if chief prince of the entire globe, and then forget about providing us with all of these ancient names? Why simply pick on the Russians? Why not the Scots, the Irish, the Eskimos…? Had God intended a European nation to be included in Gog’s coalition, He would have simply mentioned them. Iberia is mentioned in the Bible. So is Chittim, which was the ancient name for Rome – did God forget to mention it in this prophecy?”[32]

Conclusion

If this analysis is correct, then it is strongly possible that the Antichrist will come from the modern nation of Turkey (or an adjacent area). Magog, Meshech, Tubal, Gomer, and Beth Togarmah all were located in Turkey and the immediate region of this country. The nations that are allied with Gog in these chapters (Iran, Sudan, Libya (or Somalia)) are all located in the Middle East or North Africa. To sum it up nicely: Russia has nothing to do with the Gog-Magog War of Ezekiel 38-39. Ezekiel clearly sees Gog as a leader from the Middle East, not Russia. This interpretation is consistent with what was discovered about the Antichrist in Daniel 2.

What do you think of this? Was Turkey on your list of possible locations of the origin of the Antichrist? Are there any weaknesses to this view? Leave a comment below or on our Facebook page.

[1] This is a updated version of an article originally published on April 19, 2013.

[2] David R. Reagan. “The Wars of the End Times” http://www.lamblion.com/articles/articles_tribulation1.php. Nathan E. Jones. “Timing Gog-Magog” http://www.lamblion.com/articles/articles_tribulation2.php. Joel Rosenberg. “What is the War of Gog and Magog.” http://flashtrafficblog.wordpress.com/2011/05/09/what-is-the-war-of-gog-and-magog-part-one/. Leon Wood. A Commentary on Daniel. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1973). 309-310. Mark Hitchcock, The End (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2012), 296-297.

[3] Joel Richardson. Mideast Beast. (Washington D.C.: WND Books, 2012). 202. Walid Shoebat, with Joel Richardson. God’s War on Terror (Top Executive Media, 2008). 264-265. Daniel I. Block. The Book of Ezekiel: Chapters 25-48. In “The New International Commentary on the Old Testament.” Ed. R.K. Harrison and Robert L. Hubbard, Jr. (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1998). 433. Leslie C. Allen. Ezekiel 20-48. In the “Word Bible Commentary” Volume 29. (Dallas: Word Books, 1990). 204-205.

[4] Hitchcock, 295.

[5] See for example Henry M. Morris. The Genesis Record. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1976. Pg. 247-248.

[6] Flavius Josephus, The New Complete Works of Josephus, The Antiquities of the Jews, book 1, chapter 6, part 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1999), 57.

[7] Herodotus 4.11.

[8] Hippolytus, The Chronicon, “The Sons of Japheth.”

[9] Pliny, Natural History, chapter 23.

[10] Richardson, 207. Shoebat, 254-258. L. John McGregor. Ezekiel. In the “New Bible Commentary” 21st Century Edition. Ed. D.A. Carson, R.T. France, J.A. Motyer, and G.J. Wenham. (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 1994). 741. H.C. Leupold. Exposition of Genesis, vol. 1. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1942). 360. New Moody Atlas of the Bible. (Chicago:Moody, 2009). 91, 94. The IVP Atlas of Bible History. (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2006). 18.

[11] Block, 434.

[12] Morris, 248.

[13] Leupold, 360. Also see Shoebat, 258 and Block 435.

[14] Josephus, book 1, chapter 6, part 1.

[15] Leupold, 360.

[16] Hitchcock, 297-298.

[17] Hitchcock, 295-296; Jones.

[18] Hitchcock, 296-297.

[19] Edwin Yamauchi. Foes from the Northern Frontier (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1982). 243; “Meshech, Tubal, and Company: A Review Article,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 19 (1976).

[20] Ralph Alexander. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Jeremiah-Ezekiel (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010). 864.

[21] Block, 435.

[22] James Price, “Rosh: An Ancient Land Known to Ezekiel,” Grace Theological Journal 6 (1985) 69-89. http://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/ted_hildebrandt/otesources/26-ezekiel/text/articles/price-rosh-ezekiel-gtj.pdf.

[23] Richardson, 215-217; Shoebat, 258; Block, 435-436; McGregor, 741; Allen, 204; New Moody Atlas of the Bible, 92-93; The IVP Atlas of Bible History, 18.

[24] Leupold, 364.

[25] Shoebat, 266; Hitchcock, 298.

[26] Leupold, 360.

[27] Josephus, book 1, chapter 6, part 1.

[28] Leupold, 361; Richardson, 217-218; Shoebat, 261; New Moody Atlas of the Bible, 92-93; The IVP Atlas of Bible History, 18; Block (440) says that Gomer may be placed in the Crimean Peninsula in Ukraine. Hitchcock agrees by placing both Gomer and Togarmah in Turkey (298-299).

[29] Hitchcock, 297. Also see Jones; David Reagan. “The Antichrist: Will He Be a Muslim?” http://www.lamblion.com/articles/articles_islam4.php; Rosenberg.

[30] J. Paul Tanner, “Daniel’s ‘King of the North.’: Do We Owe Russia an Apology?” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 35, no 3 (September 1992): 325. http://www.etsjets.org/files/JETS-PDFs/35/35-3/JETS_35-3_315-328_Tanner.pdf.

[31] Wood, 309.

[32] Shoebat, 259.

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